Coming to Shore

If I were writing an elegy, I would say that the voyage has been a difficult one. I readied the boat, took down sails in the storms, and dropped anchor when arriving in the calm waters of the port.

Unfortunately, the sea has always been intemperate, and a squall has hovered on the horizon for many years. By times that has blown into a gale, but more often the wind dropped, and cloud cover prevented the use of a sextant. Lost with only a compass, I languished in the doldrums, patiently waiting for a catspaw of wind.

I now think it’s time to start the motor and go to shore. The boat is leaking, the sails are ripped, and I am running out of provisions.

The ghost ship I have seen through the fog has proven to be a mirage, and the green hills of pleasant valleys beckon like Crusoe’s footprint in the sand.

In the end, after the voyage is over, all we have left are the stories we tell about it.

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Buying an Academic Paper from Cheating Sites

Once students have exhausted the other plagiarism options, such as lifting material from online and cheating from their friend, like a moth to a flame they are drawn to paper-writer-for-hire websites. There they become ecstatic over promises to lighten their academic load by having an in-house essay writer take care of their assignments. The ads for such sites do not mention plagiarism, or cheating, but rather talk about the unfairness of the overwhelming work the student is asked to do and tantalizingly offer their services as a reasonable and economical alternative.

There are several important features the cheating student should check in the contract before they sign, however. They think that price is the only consideration, and in their naïve way they presume all writing is equal as long as the grammar is correct, but in fact they need to consider how the paper-writer-for-hire business might work, and who such businesses imagine to be their clients.

The audience for essay-writing sites is not the typical undergraduate student. Instead, like those who reply to spam emails, only the laziest or most witless students are drawn to cheating, and the builders of such sites know their demographic. They do not bother themselves with delivering a decent product for the price, but rather are concerned with pleasing the vacuous student who is paying the bill. Such companies rarely get repeat business. Their dimwitted clientele will shortly be expelled for other shoddy work if not the purchased paper, and once the student realizes they’ve been cheated with a terrible paper, they won’t likely return.

Therefore, the paper-writer websites need not worry about anything other than their paycheck for the paper in question. There are many more students where that one came from. This means that they don’t concern themselves with earning a good grade. In fact, the paper only has to be good enough to fool the student. Students who avail themselves of such services have already proven themselves to be lazy, and they are just as likely to be profoundly ignorant. The students pays the fee, the writers make sure it passes their weak scrutiny, and then it is handed in to earn a poor grade. Since the companies only need to please the student long enough to get paid, they are, as my Indian students say, “least concerned” with the grade the paper receives.

How the students imagine the system working is hard to understand. They probably honestly believe that there are people who waste their time researching and reading books merely to write a weak paper for them. They know so little about academic work that they think the hundred dollars they are paying would be a decent price for a writer, and that the research is either already at the academic’s fingertips or they can do it easily and well. They eagerly download the offered paper and rather desperately wait for the expected A.

The weak student does not realize that to write a decent paper the online essay-writers-for-hire would have to master the class material. The student hasn’t done that, obviously, and yet they imagine a stranger would be able to. The writers are simply not paid enough for that. Some of the earnings are going to the website and the remainder is a pittance. Because the writer earns so little for each paper, they take short cuts. They skim a Wikipedia article and a review describing the story, and then cobble together some ideas to generate a necessarily vague essay. They rarely incorporate quotes, since they do not have access to the original text and can’t be bothered to find it. Therefore, their quotes are poorly formed if they do exist, and sometimes come from other books by the same name.

Mostly the writers rely on paraphrase to provide academic support, particularly because in general they are more versed in humanities papers, and partially because they can’t be bothered to learn two formats where one will suffice. Most professors are happy their students are using any format, and they rarely question those who use a different one than what was requested. The use of paraphrase means that the writer doesn’t need to know the text, and when they use articles they can rely on the professor’s, or more importantly, the student’s lethargy. The student who is too lazy to write their paper is scarcely going to check the references in the paper written for them.

Such essays are always easy to recognize. They are frightfully vague (“As the story moves toward its climax the characters all change their way of thinking about the object of their desire”), and when they are specific, they are trite: “The protagonist is easily the most important character in this novel.” Research is often obscure, and based on a quick read of an abstract, and rarely includes quotes. Formats are often mixed, APA for the references page, MLA for quotes from the primary work, and APA for in-text paraphrases belonging to research articles. The papers rely heavily on summary, and the reader cannot help but think—as they read about what the characters were doing instead of what it means—that they wasted their time reading the original.

What makes the bought papers stand out the most, however, is that they typically do not include spelling errors or gross grammatical problems. The students who hand them in have already proven their incompetence on earlier assignments, and they offer their last paper as proof that they have jumped ahead by several grade levels. The papers are littered with literary terms that weren’t taught and such a weak student would not know, but unlike a real academic paper, nothing is done with the terminology. Rather it functions much as name-dropping does, just to astound the easily impressed student with their purchase.

In some ways, such a student is a pathetic figure. Not only are they so weak that they cannot do their own work, but they are so simpleminded that they think they have received good value from a plagiarism site. They pass the paper in gleefully, feeling they hopped a wall that better people than them cannot scale, and when they receive their failing grade they cannot imagine what could have gone wrong.

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Typhoid Mary

The case of Typhoid Mary—a name she hated—is a peculiar one in the annals of public health. We had surely had carriers like her before, those who never suffered from an illness they inadvertently passed on, but she was the first case which was positively identified and who responded in such a selfish way. When family members where she worked died, Mary never considered that it might be due to her. She was the cook in several wealthy family kitchens, and as one after another grew sick, she moved from house to house. Perhaps she never put the epidemiological information together, although she knew enough to move once there was typhoid in the house. Once she was traced, and informed that she as an asymptomatic carrier, she refused to give samples to authorities so they could confirm her disease carrying status. Eventually they arrested her as a public health threat, and although violently attempting to avoid capture, she eventually agreed to their dictates. After two years of experimentation and imprisonment she was told that she could never be involved in food preparation again.

She could have lived like that, or sought other jobs or training, but Mary felt she should be able to continue as a cook. She tried working as a laundress, but after an injury, and subsequent penury, she changed her name, which in the early 1900s was more easily done. She was known in the upper class circuits, so she worked in restaurants and hotels. When outbreaks of typhoid occurred, she quickly left the job for another one. Therefore she became difficult to trace. When they finally incarcerated her, in 1915, it was a life sentence. Although the legal underpinning of the sentence was flimsy, Mary Mallon spent the rest of her life incarcerated in a small cottage where she was offered a job as a technician by one of the doctors. She died still incarcerated.

The lesson that Typhoid Mary’s intransigence offers to us is her unwillingness to consider others over herself. Rather than protect the public, she refused both treatment and the admission that she was the carrier. She must have known on some level that she was to blame, considering that she was moving quickly enough after an outbreak, but she didn’t think anything should confine her movements.

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Conclusion to my Teaching International Students

By the point of the final exam, there is little we can do as instructors. Our responsibility is to hand the students on to the next year as prepared as we can make them in the time allotted. We have designed a course we thought best supplied the information the students need to succeed in our class as well as advance in their university career. We have chosen texts and a teaching style which are not overly culturally bound so that all students have an equal chance of understanding the texts as well as us, conducted workshops which help them learn to avoid common student errors in writing as well as academic misconduct, and we have ensured that the skills required for each assignment were taught in advance and graded accordingly.

Teaching is a thankless task in some ways, for our students rarely appreciate what we do while they are being taught. They never see the thought put into the course schedule, selection of texts, and assignments, and while they are engaged in the gruelling slog which is learning they may not realize the importance of the class material. That is a natural procedure, for the course should be transparent in terms of the information delivered. The attendee of a concert is not interested in how the music was written, the tuning up or the purchasing of strings, but rather has bought the ticket to see the final result.

We do not teach in order to receive gratitude, but because we owe a debt to the instructors who suffered our own petty meltdowns, our attempts to cheat on assignments, and our carelessly crafted essays. Like a child seldom realizes what they owe to their parent until they are gone, with the term’s end our students will disappear from our sight. During chance hallway meetings they may say that they have used the skills we taught, but they will likely never realize the work we put into the course.

What we have taught them will become part of their cultural legacy, however, and they will carry that forward into their own career. We have to be satisfied with that.

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Cascino Family Christmas

I’d been visiting Silvio’s family in Argentina for a month by the time we drove to the mountains to visit his cousin. His cousin was renowned for her avarice and unmannered lack of civility, and so when Christmas Eve approached, which heralded the entire family coming to visit, she took Silvio aside and asked him to send me away. “He’s not really family,” she complained. When Silvio asked what he was supposed to do with me, she recommended dropping me off at a hotel.

Silvio never told me what was happening, but his mood was obvious. “We’re leaving. Pack.”

I packed up my bag while he took his downstairs and then an argument in rapid Spanish ensured. The kids looked concerned by the mayhem, but even though I was getting a sense that the cousin had some problem with Silvio, I hid behind my lack of Spanish and sat at the table while they argued. When it came time to leave, I made sure to thank the cousin for opening her home and being so hospitable. I didn’t know what the problem was, but I sensed it had to do with her hospitality.

It was a relief when we finally left, and Silvio bade me drive. He was too angry to deal with traffic. I asked him what had happened, but he waved my entreaties away. We went to a restaurant for breakfast since we hadn’t eaten yet, and as he calmed down and the food arrived, he told me what his cousin had said. I told him I was willing to go to a hotel. “You’re family,” he said. “And she’s gone too far this time. We’re going back to Neuquén.”

I drove into the mountains while Silvio napped and by the time we were at high altitude and had stopped at a lookout for condors, he was calmer. We talked about the incident all the way home, and he told me his father would be as angry as him.

He was right. As soon as we got back we had a big family conference. Although I didn’t realize the import of the entire event, everyone in the family apologized to me over and over. His father announced that I was Silvio’s family when he was in Winnipeg and therefore I was their family when I was in Argentina. The general consensus was that the selfish cousin had gone too far. The father called her and said he would not be coming for Christmas. He wrapped it in a story about a long drive and feeling tired from work, but this was more than a regular slight. Without the patriarch, no one else would come.

The cousin freaked out. Juan Carlos had been very generous with her and now she’d upset him. She immediately sent for her brother to drive her the four hundred kilometres along the route we had just fled. Once we heard that, we both decided to leave the house. Neither Silvio nor I wanted to hear the false apology from the cousin who had just realized that the father’s money might not come her way anymore.

Like refugees, we went to Marcela’s place, in my case, and Silvio went to Viviana’s. Those friends of the family were apprised of the situation, assured me that Silvio was right about the rudeness, and took us in for the two days the cousin was in town. Reportedly the cousin tried to talk to the father about the issue and begged to know where we were, but he merely said we were off partying and would come home eventually. The cloak and dagger was too much for her finally and she left, to return to a much reduced family Christmas. Once the patriarch removed his support, the rest of the family followed suit.

When the cousin left and Silvio and I returned to the house, the entire family discussed what had happened and how they felt about it. I was most touched by the way they all felt terrible that I’d been treated in such an inhospitable way. Argentinian hospitality was more profound than I thought. They apologized frequently, said that I was family, and that I was always welcome in their house.

The cousin’s story with the family did not end there, for when she came to a family wedding a few years later they made their feelings known by placing her at a table with strangers. While they partied as a group she sat stiffly at her table, and when it was time for the family photos, they put off the photographer by saying they could do it later. Finally, the wine had worked its magic and the cousin went to the bathroom. Then they rallied the photographer to hurry, and they took several family portraits. Once she was back, they settled into drinking, only to rush again when she went to the bathroom. Doubtless this was more than confusing for the photographer, this hot and cold in terms of eagerness, but the end result was dozens of family wedding photos without her in them. The family had made their feelings clear.

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Narcissism and Greed in Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein’s Balance

Perhaps one of the clearest exhibitions of narcissism is the breakdown in cooperation of the characters in Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein’s Balance. In the film, five men live on the world of a smooth metal plate which they must keep balanced in order that they all do not slide off. They each must move in a coordinated way in order that the plate does not tip too far. That careful balance is upset when one of them fishes a large box from over the side of the plate.

In order to balance the plate with the heavy box added to their world, the rest must move to the other side of the plate. This enables the one who found the box to turn the handle and listen to the muffled sounds of music. The others want to hear this for themselves, so they unbalance the plate so that the box slides toward them and the original listener must step away from it so they all survive. With this system, they could each get some time with the box while the rest keep the plate balanced. One of them decides to keep the box for himself, however, and refusing to share, he sits on while the box and he slide and the others struggle to keep the balance of the society.

As the box slides out of control, he shows no remorse as he pushes first one and then another of his fellows off the side of the plate. They fall into the abyss, the plate is further destabilized, and then he must push another in order to keep possession of the box. That continues until only he and the box remain. For balance to be maintained, however, he must stand on the opposite corner from the box. Therefore, he has killed his fellows for nothing. He can neither enjoy the music box nor move around on the plate to fetch other tempting treats from the depths.

The lesson is not lost on the Lauenstein’s viewing audience. If the man would have been content to share, all would have had a chance to listen to the music. Because of his greed and selfishness, he has lost what he most desired as well as his friends who would have helped him. The film ends with him alone facing the box which is too far away to reach or hear, and he cannot move for fear of either losing the box of plunging himself into the depths.

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Talking at Angles

Many television shows were

The cast of “Barney Miller” in September 1976: Ron Glass, Max Gail, Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Jack Soo.

renowned for their dialogue, and in that way Barney Miller is no different. The show’s portrayal of New York policing, with its kinder and gentler approach to dealing with perpetrators and victims, as well as its ground-breaking inclusion of gay people and people with disabilities, is in other ways remarkable. Although much of its dialogue is focused on or aimed toward the punch line, the sarcastic aside to whatever is happening in the 12th precinct, I was particularly struck by one early interaction between Dietrich and Yemana.

Dietrich is relatively new to the precinct and still learning his place when he makes a casual comment about a wok which has come in as evidence. Thus ensues a kind of wild and confusing ride through what is implied by the interaction rather than what is actually said.

Dietrich: Funny pot

Yemana: It’s called a wok. It’s used to cook Chinese vegetables

Dietrich: Oh, no offense.

Yemana: I’m not Chinese.

Dietrich: Well you were once, round about 4th-5th century.

Yemana: I’ll be 46 in April.

Dietrich: If I don’t see you, happy birthday.


Although Dietrich is normally portrayed as in command of an encyclopedic knowledge about everything, in this moment he worries that his idle comment about the wok will be construed as racist. It could be read as casual ignorance, but he is concerned that his statement about the cooking utensils from another culture as “funny,” merely highlights its lack of place in dominant culture.

Yemana replies to the lack of knowledge rather than the implied racially-charged slight. He names the wok and identifies its cultural provenance. This encourages Dietrich to read another implication into Yemana’s defense. The implication is that no one would be able to identify the wok, or take it upon themselves to defend the implied slight unless they were also Chinese. This is a running gag on Barney Miller. People are always mistaking American born Yemana for a Chinese man, and he is constantly correcting them.

Yemana then responds to what is implied rather than what was said. “No offense” implies that Dietrich, just like other characters on the show, thinks Yemana is Chinese. Yemana’s answer inspires Dietrich to defend his misinterpretation. As well, he answers in a way that connotes his inability to admit he is wrong. He then uses his encyclopedic knowledge to recall ancient Chinese Japanese trade relationships, as a way of shoring up his claim that his mistake, that although Yemana considers himself to be Japanese, he is Chinese actually, kind of, or once was.

Yemana hears the subtext. An argument from ancient history does not sway him to believe that he is Chinese. He wants to say that was a long time ago, that such concerns of the Chinese and Japanese people from five centuries earlier have nothing to do with him as an American Japanese man. So he answers with his age. That is his way of saying what happened all that time ago has nothing to do with him.

Dietrich shifts his strategy. Now he is no longer going to address the implications of his statements, but rather refuse to acknowledge the implication that Yemana is too young to have anything to do with cultural trade five centuries earlier. Since the birthday Yemana refers to is not immediate, his offer of a birth greeting is stilted. The moment of dialogue wraps up with a pre-emptive happy birthday, leaving both Yemana and Dietrich confused as they walk away from the conversational minefield.

Such missteps in human interactions are not so unusual that we cannot recognize the awkwardness of the encounter. But it’s worth noting that this piece of dialogue was written for its comedic value. The writing staff deliberately put together a series of utterances which each miss their mark in terms of what the characters want to say. That is where the humour lies. The viewer must be privy to the cultural codes which make the scene function, the connotations behind the words uttered by the characters, but once that is appreciated, the words say far more about the position of immigrants in American culture, the difficulty in being a minority in a dominant cultural milieu, the over eagerness not to appear derogatory, and the refusal to admit the blame when wrong.

This piece of dialogue, lost although it is in the flowing tide of repartee of the show, says far more, and less, about North American culture than we want to admit.

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The Purpose of a Lie

When Joyce chose to lie to her daughter it was as if she’d forgotten the purpose of a lie. She was trying to cover up her crime with perfidy, but she didn’t realize that making the person you are lying to party to your lie only leads to a lack of respect and lost trust.

Hanace, who was fourteen, and her younger sister Kim, who was ten, had been rooting through their mother’s purse looking for change when they found a bag of marijuana. The find was particularly exciting to Hanace as she explained to her sister what was in the bag. Her mother had condemned all drug use, had denigrated Hanace’s friends because they would smoke dope, and here she was—like any hypocrite—found with dope in her bag.

When Joyce arrived home Hanace, Kim in tow, confronted her. Hanace held up the bag and demanded her mother explain its presence in her purse. Perhaps because she as on the spot, and a natural liar, Joyce said it wasn’t hers. Hanace pushed at the lie. “Whose would it be then? It was in your purse.”

This was the moment that Joyce, caught between admitting her own hypocrisy and the truth, came out with her crowning achievement. “It’s yours. You’re the one who put it there.”

Upon reflection Joyce would probably recognize that she’d made a poor decision. Perhaps she wanted to protect Kim from the fact of her mother’s drug use. Whatever the reason, it was more than apparent, as Hanace protested, that she was lying. Kim learned the lesson. Her mother lied when she was caught doing something bad and—even if she were not conscious of modeling behaviour for the younger girl—she would soon have a daughter who lied to her.

Hanace learned an even more important lesson. If her mother had said the dope belonged to her friend Stacy, then there was no way Hanace could prove that wasn’t true. As it was, Hanace knew instantly that her mother was lying. Although she could not prove it before a court, she certainly knew she wasn’t responsible for the bag of dope in her mother’s purse. She learned that her mother will easily lie to cover her own failings, and that her mother, when pressed, would throw her under the bus.

Joyce didn’t realize that she’d caused damage that her family might never recover from as she went to bed that night thinking that she’d weathered the incident fairly well. In fact all she’d done was betray her daughter and lie to her face, prove herself to be a bad mother, and show that she’d forgotten the most important tenet to lying: never include in the lie the person you are lying to. She’d forgotten the importance of relying on doubt to shore up the hidden part of her lie. Her daughter’s memory was excellent, and armed with knowledge of her mother’s mendaciousness, she had no trouble seeing the truth behind the flimsy veil of accusation.

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The Myth of Narcissus

Many know the rough outlines of the original myth of Narcissus, the man who was so enamoured with his own image that he drowned while reaching for his reflection in a pool. The original outlines of the myth are more complex.

A son of gods, Narcissus was doomed from the start. He not only was gifted with extreme beauty, but had the overweening sense of his own self-worth that we come to associate with narcissism. His mother Liriope was told by the seer Tiresias at birth that Narcissus would live a long life if he never discovered himself. Kept from mirrors, Narcissus never had a chance to fall in love with his own image.

Instead, looking for love in the mirror of the other, he rejected all lovers who approached him, even Echo, who was cursed to repeat back to the sender any message she received. Thus, if Narcissus were to claim that he loved her, Echo would have said the same, thus giving someone with such an overinflated sense of self the gratification their fragile self-esteem desired. Narcissus rejected Echo’s advances, and left her to pine away in a lonely glade, and her voice faded without someone to imitate until she disappeared entirely.

Even for the gods, Narcissus’ way of treating the innocent Echo was interpreted to be excessively cruel, and Nemesis determined to exact a suitable revenge. She led Narcissus far into the forest until he was thirsty and then showed him a still pool. Narcissus bent to drink, and there, entranced by his own reflection, he fell in love.

Unfortunately the ripples in the pool disturbed his attempts to embrace himself, and the closer he came to touching himself the farther he receded from view. Finally, in agony because he could not close with the one he loved, he, depending on the version, fell in and drowned, killed himself, or pined away from unrequited love much like Echo had done.

Anyone hearing the story now will both recall people they have known who are obsessed with their appearance, with the selfies on social media and the dependence on accolades to prove it. As well, they will lament that Narcissus didn’t merely have a mirror. Then he could stand in front of it all day, proclaiming his self-love like too many who end up becoming celebrities and business leaders and politicians, standing before the social mirror of adoring fans and followers.

The useful portion of the narcissus myth has more to do with the destructive nature of self-love than they do the exact mechanism by which someone might fulfill their desire for self, however. The lesson of Narcissus is lost on few as they contemplate that Narcissus could have enjoyed a pleasant life but for the extreme selfishness of his desires. The myth teaches that such an obsession with the self, the inability to look outside the self and consider others as equals or, in extreme cases, even worthy of notice, ultimately leads to destruction.

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Pondering the Media During the 2022 Ottawa Trucker Convoy

The various media systems of the world are overworked, and in the case of many of them, underpaid. This is exposed by the request, below most online news stories, to report any errors. With editors in short supply, the news services are increasingly reliant on the public to correct their grammar, supply them with video evidence, and report news when they see it. That means our media take short cuts, repeat news segments, and rely on wire services to supply the same footage they have sold to a dozen different services.

In countries like the United States, whose only publically funded services are what is widely regarded to be US propaganda, Voice of America, a relatively free National Public Radio, and the questionable autonomy of PBS (Public Broadcasting System) the situation is even more dire. Their principal news services are dictated by the salacious public eye rather than a sense of what should be reported to inform their citizenry. Therefore, their different networks increasing produce infotainment. This more prurient news is a more profound problem than merely poorly-informed reporting. The consumer also needs to watch for slick production of tired news spots intended to divert the eye rather than inform.

In Canada, the cuts to funding under both Liberal and Conservative regimes means that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation experiences the same constraints. A recent test case of that reporting is that of the so-called Trucker Convoy, which is a rag tag collection of malcontents who mostly want to end the pandemic. They demand an end to all public health mandates, which includes mandatory vaccination for air travel, crossing the border, or the necessity of a vaccine as a condition for federal government employment. They are also angry, as far as I can make out, about the mask mandates, which they—having spent months steeping themselves in American Facebook—believe undermines their human rights. Most of the “rights” talk has more to do with their annoyance at the pandemic than the efficacy of masks or vaccines, but they find it difficult to understand that the Canadian government can do as little about American vaccine requirements for crossing the border as they can the pandemic itself. Their disgust at the length of time we have been subject to the pandemic is shared by everyone, but most people have come to terms with the relatively minor inconvenience in their lives.

A friend of mine was doing a workshop through the catholic church which attempted to discuss the reconciliation of Indigenous people and colonial Canadians when one of the Indigenous women, trying to understand how white people could suffer trauma even while they were dishing it out, said, wonderingly, “I guess they could have trauma too, although I don’t know what it could be. Like what? I lost my pony.” My friend, a woman of colour, was the only one who laughed. The white people in the room didn’t find it funny.

Such a comparison occurs to me when I think about the largely white protestors. They look like the same anti-maskers who broke into schools and harassed medical people going into hospitals. They stage rallies at malls and force shops and restaurants to shut down

Protesters at Queen’s Park on Saturday, April 25 demand an end to public health rules put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

while they holler about their rights and cite a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that they have never read. The extreme privilege of their lives becomes apparent when their triggering issue is having to wear a mask at the grocery store or be vaccinated to work in some professions. The truckers who lost their jobs because they needed to cross the border and refused the required vaccination—if that even affects more than an angry few—forget they could merely work elsewhere, for different companies. Likewise, they could also set their fears and conspiracy theories aside and join a few billion people worldwide who have had the vaccine. They would rather be unemployed and angry than bow to such a mandate, however, which makes me wonder why they don’t have more sympathy for Indigenous activists protesting their land being destroyed, or their children dying from drugs and suicide. Surely someone who has real concerns should strike a sympathetic cord with a group of people whose skin if so thin that even a simple medical treatment is too much to bear.

The validity of their concerns—such as the woman interviewed on CBC radio this morning who complained that she wasn’t allowed to enter the stadium because of the vaccine mandate despite having season tickets—is at least questionable, although their white tears certainly inspire as much curiosity as their different standard of treatment by the police. As many have noted, these white protestors are met with a considerably different greeting than that of proponents of the Black Lives Matter

movement or the Wet’suwet’en protesting a pipeline going through their land. The Black Lives Matter movement was calling upon a policing review and the Wet’suwet’en were asking that the pipeline company spend a little more to avoid their watersheds, but both were met by force. They were beaten, approached with assault rifles and attack dogs, found their names on terrorist lists, and arrested.

The collection of groups which have choked Ottawa streets and blocked the border at Coutts, Alberta, are being negotiated with. I am reminded of an exercise I have used with my students when the topic was on everyone’s mind. I asked them to guess the ethnicity of the perpetrator when I described the situation and the police action.

I would tell them the case of Sammy Yatim, who was shot while acting erratically on a Toronto trolley car. He was brandishing both his penis and a twelve cm knife and passengers were understandably terrified as they fled the car. When James Forcillo, from the Toronto Police Service, ordered Yatim to put down the knife, Yatim disobeyed and walked toward the aptly named Forcillo. Forcillo shot him three times, which the autopsy later determined killed him instantly, and then shot him six more times. While Yatim was immobile on the floor of the car, Forcillo’s Sergeant, Dan Pravica tasered Yatim’s body. The name betrays Yatim’s ethnicity, but I left the names out of it when I told the story.

The contrasting story involves Corey Hurren, who loaded several guns in his pickup and drove from Manitoba, where he was a military reservist, to Ottawa. There he rammed his truck through the wrought iron fence of Rideau Hall, crawled through the bushes in an attempt to attack the Prime Minister because he was angry about Covid restrictions. His mind swayed by American Facebook—such as those who attacked the American electoral process in Washington in 2021—Hurren thought he had the right to overturn the government.

The telling part of that story, for me, was that the police—even with an armed terrorist who had already torn through the fence and was waving guns near the Prime Minister’s residence—spent an hour and a half talking him down. Rather than employ the same force they’d used when confronted by an eighteen years old Yatim armed with a knife, they decided to use a lengthy exercise of diplomacy on the white man.

My students have no difficulty discerning the ethnicity of the perpetrators in the two scenarios. Such incidents play out on our streets and highways all the time, and even while the truckers block the downtown of Ottawa, honk their horns all night and spread garbage through the street, as well as desecrate war memorials and the Terry Fox statue, the police feel they cannot act.

In Nova Scotia, in eastern Canada, the police similarly stood aside while a mob of a few hundred white lobster fishermen burned an Indigenous fisher’s van as well as the warehouse where his catch was kept. If a group of Indigenous protestors—well we need look no farther than the protest against fracking in Rexton, New Brunswick which excited a huge and violent police presence.

Although much of this use of kid gloves when white people are protesting has little to do with the media, it may go a long way toward explaining why the coverage of this latest event in Ottawa has been repetitive and lukewarm. The police threatening Indigenous protestors on Wet’suwet’en wasn’t covered either, but that was not really the media’s fault. The police prevented reports from getting out. No reporters were allowed to report from the protest, and those amateur reporters were arrested. The police were later found to have overstepped their bounds and acted unlawfully, according to federal Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC), although there have been no consequences for their actions.

In the case of the Ottawa and Coutts, Alberta, protests, however, the media are allowed to investigate. With such a highly trafficked region as the capitol, with so many eyes on the ground, I would have expected better coverage. For instance, there have been many complaints that white nationalists are flying swastika flags and harassing non-white citizens, but the media doesn’t approach either victim or perpetrator.

The organizers of the rally claim to be concerned about a mandate that cross-border truckers need to be vaccinated, but no one is asking a non-vaccinated trucker why he or she cannot simple find work elsewhere, or how their plan would force the United States to open their borders to the unvaccinated.

Many Ottawa streets are blocked, but I have seen no map of the blockages listing the amount and types of vehicles involved. Nor has a newsperson merely strolled along the blockages, engaging people in the crowd as well as recording the size of the protest. They could easily edit the footage back at the office in a few hours and then show the rest of Canada what type of people, how many trucks, and how many Nazi sympathizers, were milling around in the crowd.

I am not advocating that we show “both sides” as the media is fond of doing, but I think that we need to be as informed as the house owners who are subject to the noise, and that footage of the white supremacist, anti-mandate, anti-vaccine, and generally conservative Canadians—as well as instigators from outside the country—should find a place on the National Library shelves.

Instead, we are treated to the same soundbite from the same disgruntled Canadian who wants the mandates to end. There are no follow-up questions about their exact concerns, and only a few pictures and blurry footage of a few trucks. Although many are recording the event for their Nazi pages, or their anti-government blogs, and are therefore doing us the favour the media won’t, their cameras avoid the more depraved actions of their fellows, the racist confrontations and vandalism, but without their records, we have nothing. Like the rioters in the January 6th insurrection in the United States who filmed their crimes, we are again reliant on those weeping white protestors who have lost their pony. Only they can expose the weakness in their reasoning and the hatred in their political stance.

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